By Barrett Cordero, President of BigSpeak, a leading global speakers bureau representing business icons, bestselling authors, thought leaders and celebrities.
The pandemic has changed how we attend meetings and conferences forever. Virtual events used to be the exception. Before the pandemic, only 45% of people had attended a virtual event; now 87% have. This trend has inspired over 90% of event organizers to plan even more virtual events in 2022, according to a fall 2021 survey by Kaltura.
If you like the convenience of online meetings and events but wish the experience could be better, there’s good news. A number of startups, game makers (Roblox and Epic Games), software giants (Microsoft) and social media conglomerates (Facebook, now Meta) are all working on the next big thing in online events: the metaverse.
If you haven’t heard, the metaverse will be an immersive online experience that makes you feel like you’re at the event, not just watching from your computer. You will be able to see an entirely different environment in high definition, 3D, 360 degrees while wearing virtual reality (VR) goggles. Moreover, you can interact with other attendee avatars (your virtual self) and your environment by wearing haptic gloves (or game controllers). Forget PowerPoint: You’ll be in the presentation, not just watching it.
While the immersive metaverse of science fiction movies isn’t quite here yet, Facebook (Meta) believes they will have something close to it in the next five years. If you still have your doubts about the metaverse being the next best thing, here are some of the benefits of the metaverse over online webinars and video calls.
With a metaverse event, you can have unlimited attendance. During the pandemic, Epic Games hosted a rock concert within their online game Fortnite. Millions of people were able to watch Travis Scott perform live. While the current technology is not advanced enough for millions of people to all see and interact with each other at the same time in the same virtual space, attendees were able to see each other in groups of 50. So while your next event might not be able to host thousands of people in a room at the same time, you could still have thousands or tens of thousands or more at your event. The NBA, NFL and NHL are all clued into this and I suspect will embrace it sooner than later. The same goes for universities offering and changing their online curriculums.
Unlimited Environmental Design
Ever feel like you could make a better convention venue? You can with the metaverse. One of the benefits for events and conference planners is the unlimited environmental design. The metaverse isn’t limited by physical construction costs, physics or building codes. You can create conferences with an unlimited number of rooms and meeting places so people can attend events or interact with colleagues. If you want a pirate theme, you can have your event on a pirate ship. If you want your event to take place on the moon, you can do that, too.
One of the more exciting aspects for events is monetization. Virtual spaces mean more money-making opportunities. For years, video game makers have earned revenue by allowing users to upgrade their virtual experience. Like physical world conferences, you can have VIP access to events. You can also allow people to upgrade how they interact with the environment and what they look like in the environment and allow them to shop for things (which can then be delivered physically to their homes).
The metaverse is still in its infancy. Like any new technology, there are constraints in terms of hardware, platform limitations and interoperability issues. While some metaverse companies are making their events accessible from the desktop computer, you won’t get the full immersive experience unless you purchase expensive hardware, such as VR glasses, goggles, headsets and gloves. Depending on the brand, these devices cost from a few hundred dollars into the thousands.
In addition to hardware costs, the metaverse platforms offered by various companies have limitations. Some of the limits are how you can model your environment and how many people can see each other at the same time. The biggest constraint, however, may be interoperability between platforms. Right now, there is no standard for the metaverse, so different platforms may require different hardware and/or software to use.
The metaverse is coming and will be the next big thing for events and conferences. I understand why there is pause when contemplating more screen time in our life. Believe me, I do. But compared to our parents and grandparents, the future continues to rapidly evolve and change our current customs. Strap in and put your goggles on.